Two thirds of supporters want to see a change of ownership at Sunderland – with fans pointing to a lack of funding in the summer as a key reason behind the club’s struggles.
Today we can reveal the results of our Big Sunderland AFC Survey which asked fans for their views on a host of key issues.
Owner Ellis Short – who has been on the end of fan chants from the terraces – comes in for criticism with the club spending just £1.25million on new signings in the summer.
Sunderland, relegated from the Premier League last season, are in real danger of back-to-back relegations with the club bottom of the Championship.
With Sunderland shipping on average two goals a game, the inability to keep a clean sheet is a key factor behind their struggles and ultimately Simon Grayson losing his job.
The Yorkshireman, who took charge following the resignation of David Moyes, lasted just 15 games - Grayson sacked within minutes of the draw with Bolton Wanderers.
That game saw Sunderland equal an English record for the longest winless streak on home soil, a record they will hold outright if they fail to beat Millwall at the Stadium of Light.
With the club searching for their ninth manager in six years, we asked fans for their views.
Biggest factor behind the dreadful start?
Almost a third of fans pointed the blame squarely at Short, chief executive Martin Bain and the board with 29 per cent blaming the lack of investment in the first team.
The last set of accounts - published before the player sales this summer – showed Sunderland to be £110million in debt.
And the £30million raised by the sale of Jordan Pickford has been used in part to pay money owed to other clubs for previous transfers, including the near £10million owed to Inter Milan after the club lost their case regarding the loan of Ricky Alvarez.
The players received 23 per cent of the vote with Grayson accounting for just seven per cent. Despite the troubles on the pitch, three quarters of fans believe the club will avoid relegation.
Simon Grayson’s tenure:
An overwhelming 80 per cent were pleased Grayson had left, the ex-Blackpool and Leeds boss winning just one league game all season.
Fans were divided though whether he should have been sacked sooner, with 50.7 per cent saying he should and 49.3 claiming not.
Fans pointed to the shocking defensive record, with 31 goals shipped in 16 games, and Grayson’s inability to sort the defensive problems as his worst quality (44.8 per cent).
His tactics (26.9 per cent) and the constant tweaking of his team and system (14.3 per cent) also rankled with fans.
In terms of his best quality, more than half (53 per cent) praised Grayson for his signings on such a limited budget, while he was also praised for giving younger players a chance (23.8 per cent)
Ellis Short and Martin Bain:
We asked fans how they rated Short’s performance this year and 62 per cent said it was time for a change at Sunderland, with just 2.7 per cent satisfied with the job he has done.
Short, in a rare interview, recently said he has the club’s best interests at heart and while he said the club is not officially for sale, he would consider any credible bids for a takeover.
A little over half of fans in our survey called for a change in the chief executive office (52.2 per cent) with 14 per cent content with Bain’s performance this season.
Bain is currently leading the search for a new manager, with the club’s hierarchy fully aware of the need to get this appointment right.
January plans and areas to strengthen?
Funds are clearly limited at Sunderland but 85 per cent of fans want to see £5million plus spent in January to improve the squad.
Fans were clear which area needs to be strengthened most, with 59 per cent calling for reinforcements in central defence and 15 per cent in midfield.
Adding pace (25%) and young hungry players (27%) is seen as key, with experienced players with Championship quality the priority (35%) in January.
Should Sunderland consider closing the top tier of the Stadium of Light for home games to boost the atmosphere?
Seven out of 10 Sunderland fans believe the club should consider closing the top tier for home games.
With attendances dwindling there have been suggestions in some quarters that it would help boost the atmosphere at home games. Meanwhile, 32 per cent of fans were opposed.
Best and worst signing?
There was no surprise when it came to who fans voted as the best summer signing – with top goalscorer Lewis Grabban leading the way with eight goals in 13 games.
Grabban won 58 per cent of the vote, with Aiden McGeady second with 34 per cent.
Jason Steele has not won over the Sunderland fanbase with a series of unconvincing displays in goal and 48.3 per cent voted him Sunderland’s worst signing this season.
Everton loanee Brendan Galloway was second with 26.1 per cent of the vote and James Vaughan third with 13.2 per cent.
Who should be number one? Which youngster deserves more game time?
Given Steele was voted the worst signing of the summer perhaps it should come as no surprise to see an overwhelming 90 per cent of supporters that took part in our survey wanting to see Robbin Ruitter firmly establish himself as the club’s No.1 keeper.
Another key factor in Grayson’s downfall was his constant chopping and changing in goal.
Striker Josh Maja (28%), who hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury, and Lynden Gooch (25%) are the two younger players that fans want to see more of between now and May.